It’s Here: 2013 American Alpine Journal


Wunderkind and I stopped by our mailbox on the way home from our walk last night. I said to my toddler, “Let’s see if it came.” It did and the rest of the mail seemed less important, or at least less interesting.

Every year, in the middle of August members of the American Alpine Club receive the annual edition of the American Alpine Journal and Accidents in North American Mountaineering. The AAJ is by far my favorite of the two, though I am sure to read both as quickly as possible.

There are a lot of articles and reports worth devouring, but here is what’s on my short, short list for anyone who wants the Readers Digest version:

P. 102 — Recon: Revelations by Clint Helander — Clint is a nice and generous fella that happens to be a true pioneer in climbing in a day and age when there are a lot of hot shots going to Asia. Clint has found gems right here in North America and it’s as close as you can get to the days of climbing with Ad Carter and Bradford Washburn as you can get. This doesn’t mean to imply he climbs old school at all — read it an see.

P. 38 — Doubleheader by Kyle Dempster — I don’t focus on the Karakorum and Himalayas like most people these days, but I know that the ascents of K7 and the Ogre are significant and impressive. I’m bracing myself to be wowed.

P. 88 — Life Essence by Pat Goodman — This region in the Northwest Territory has long excited me, and Pat Goodman is as wonderful for climbing as his name suggests and he hasn’t disapointed me with his observations and stories yet.

P. 97 — Himjung Style by Ahn Chi-Young — The language barrier often gets in the way from what happens in this part of the world. I want to look through this port hole because I don’t know what I don’t know.

I left off this list Sandy Allan’s piece on the Mazeno Ridge traverse, which should have won the Piolet d’Or, and Freddie Wilkinson’s feature of the traverse of the Alaska Range’s Mooses Tooth massif because I think they have been well covered, not because they don’t deserve the read.

I am also going to spend time closely reading the book reviews before I read the trip reports. I think that it’s important to know what has been written about our community before diving into what it has done recently. It helps to stay in tune with the views and approaches of our niche yet diverse group.

Lastly, the obituaries might be just as important as the trip reports if not more so. The reports are snapshots of what may one day be written at the end. The In Memorium section, covers the climber in full. Whether you knew them or not, these mini biographies should be read carefully. I’ll pay close attention to the notes on Michael Ybarra, Bjorn-Eivind Artun, Roger Payne, Bean Bowers, and Yan Dongdong.

Carrying the AAJ under your arm everywhere for weeks if necessary is worth it to get through all of the rich content the community has shared. For me, with a busy regulatory work schedule coming up and two young children, it will be necessary. I’m a little worried since I haven’t finished reading Alpinist 43 and the latest issue of Climbing. I’ll gladly set aside my other books, but staying on top of my periodicals of choice is getting dicey.

May you have adequate time to read in gulps rather than sips.

I appreciate you stopping by for a read once again. If you enjoyed this post, please consider following The Suburban Mountaineer on Facebook and Twitter.

Climbing matters, even though we work nine to five.

Gone Climbing

I feel a little weird saying this, but the question “Who died?” is a common one late at night in my home. After Wunderkind goes to bed, Edelweiss and I like to read in the evenings. I usually have a climbing book or magazine. Then it comes.

I’ve started lying that no one in my current chapter or article died. Mostly it’s true. But there are a lot of stories of being stranded with HAPE, HACE, worsening frostbite, falling, avalanche, rock fall and snow bridges or cornices collapsing into voids, or alpinists learning of friends that go missing on a climb. I’m not morbid. I’ve never read these stories to contemplate death. I’m interested in the climb and the life of the climber. So my wife’s question, has bordered between becoming tiresome and comical.

Before I started writing this blog I read past the headlines of deaths of climbers, including the famous ones. Dying on a climb was something I avoided both in practice and in… I guess you’d call it concept or theory. I kept thoughts of dying climbing in the distance. But much of the news about climbing, except in the sources I typically refer to (see Mountain Links) are only talking of accidents and death; I just wanted news of attempts on jagged peaks.

Reading of climbing deaths in histories of Alaska or the Himalayas is somewhat detached. I notice deaths as if it were the death of Lou Gehrig — an important man in baseball from before my time, but I never had a reason to mourn.

In the process of obtaining best “inside track” for news on current climbing news through  the American Alpine Club, climbing magazines in print and online and connections through social media, I’ve developed some relationships — a term I used in the broadest possible sense. Some I’ve conversed with once or twice, others I just follow like they are celebrities.

Along the way, my interest in them has developed a familiarity. When news came of Bjørn-Eivind Årtun’s death with his partner Stein-Ivar Gravdal on attempting a route in Norway, I did not react the way I have before. I couldn’t dismiss it. I felt I knew him. He climbed with Colin Haley on Mount Foraker. He was strong and progressive.

Then there was Michael Ybarra. I didn’t follow him, but I knew about him from his writing in the Wall Street Journal. Then Yan Dongdong — a pioneer of Chinese alpinism — and just recently, Roger Payne. Roger left his wife, Julie Ann Clyma.

I wanted to hear more from them. I wanted to hear about their next ascent or plans to tackle something in Sichuan. I wanted them one day to say, I’m too old for this, go on into old age and die comfortably in their easy chair with family or their life partner nearby.

These climbers are heroes and people that inspire us and some of us live vicariously through. Hearing of their demise in their pursuit for their next objective — their quest for happiness, arguably — makes their conclusion harder to take. They’re end is not like that of hearing about your favorite actor or baseball player; actors don’t die from the risks of their performance and ball players don’t pass away from the conditions in the outfield.

My climbing heroes die doing what I want to do. It doesn’t make me appreciate climbing less — at least I don’t think so. At the moment, it adds a more complex, personal element about my acquaintance’s humanity and my own.

So to Bjørn-Eivind, Michael, Dongdong and Roger… Thanks for sharing your stories.

And thank you for dropping by yet again. If you got something out of this post, you might want to consider following me on Facebook or Twitter because I believe climbing matters, even though we work nine to five.